Matt Kenseth wins pole for Cup regular-season finale at Richmond

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Matt Kenseth won the pole for Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, giving him a sweep of this season’s poles at the track.

Kenseth, who is looking to lock himself into the playoffs with a win in the regular-season finale, scored the pole with a speed of 122.421 mph.

“I didn’t think I was going to have enough speed, I didn’t think that was a fast enough lap time to get the pole,” Kenseth told NBCSN. “We’ve been running pretty good the last few months. We haven’t been able to break through and get a win like we’d like to have, we got crashed out at Michigan. But other than that we’ve been up there in the mix. We just haven’t been able to get it to line up and get the victory.”

It is Kenseth’s 20th Cup pole. Before this year he had never won a Cup pole at Richmond. Kenseth led 164 laps in the April race before finishing 23rd after a flat tire.

Completing the top five are Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.

The winners of the last six Richmond races all started in the top five.

The top five drivers starting outside the top 12 are Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez.

“We just got too loose,” Suarez told NBCSN. “For whatever reason we just lost a lot of grip in the second round. I don’t why. We had the same thing in practice. The first round was very, very good and the second round on tires wasn’t as good. We’re missing something there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 21st in his last Cup start at Richmond Raceway.

Richard Childress Racing had a poor qualifying performance with all three cars failing to advance out of the first round.

Paul Menard will start 26th followed by Ryan Newman in 27th. Austin Dillon qualified 31st.

“We have a good long-run car,” Dillon told NBCSN. “We kind of travel in a group when we struggle. When we run good, we run good. Like at Darlington last week with a fourth and a seventh. It’s good to know we can turn the ship around by the end of the weekend.”

Click here for the starting lineup.

Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices Friday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Police investigating vandalism, theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway

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The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of vandalism and theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the track, which last hosted a NASCAR Cup race in 1996, suffered damage of about $10,000 when several trespassers were on the grounds last weekend. No arrests have been made.

The report states that several windows were broken and other damage was done to the structures. Also, large amounts of electrical wire and circuit breakers were reported missing.

The investigation continues.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1949-96. Winners included Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, who won the final race there.

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Others’ predictions motivating Austin Dillon after Daytona 500 win: ‘I guess they don’t believe it yet’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Fresh off the greatest victory of his NASCAR career, Austin Dillon already has motivation to win the next.

The Richard Childress Racing driver heard others predict this week that the Daytona 500 would be his only victory this season.

“I think on Race Hub, Brad (Keselowski) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) saying that we weren’t going to win again,” Dillon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, that was good to hear. That was something to get me fired up a little bit more and our team, get those competitive juices flowing again. So, we will just keep rocking it however we can. We still have a lot to work on.”

Prior to Daytona, Dillon’s lone win in four seasons as a full-time Cup driver came in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600. His No. 3 Chevrolet qualified for the playoffs the past two seasons, but his top 10s (13 to four) and average finish (15.9 to 18.6) slipped demonstrably from 2016 to ’17.

“So yesterday in my group text with my buddies they watched Chad Knaus and Brad Keselowski, and it was like, ‘All right, it’s time to keep knocking them down, I guess they don’t believe it yet,’” Dillon said. “We’ve got to step up though at RCR. We’ve still got a lot to prove. It’s a speedway race, even though it’s the biggest race in our deal, it’s a speedway race.  We’ve got a lot more to prove.

“(Competition executive) Andy Petree and all the guys are RCR are working hard. I think coming down to a two-car team move is big for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m not going to lie, I’m tired right now, but we are going to kick butt this weekend and get back regrouped and get in the groove and try and gain as many bonus points as we can.”

But qualifying for the playoffs by winning the season opener should be a morale booster that avoids any letdown.

“The one thing they don’t have right now that we have is a win,” Dillon said. “So, we are on top right now, and no matter what they can’t take that away, and we are going to keep working.  I don’t expect us to lay down at all. I feel like now more than ever we need to go head on and go after it.”

Xfinity practice report from Atlanta

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the first of two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell posted a lap of 178.447 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (177.323 mph), Cole Custer (175.933), Ryan Reed (175.688) and Kevin Harvick (175.487). Daytona winner Tyler Reddick (175.388) was sixth on the speed chart.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Xfinity practice will be from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for practice 1 report